What is a Supernumerary Nipple?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A supernumerary nipple is, quite simply, an extra nipple. In humans, it takes the form of a third nipple, although mammals that naturally have more than two nipples can also develop extras. As a general rule, these nipples are entirely harmless, and no medical action needs to be taken to deal with them. Some people have them removed for aesthetic reasons, however.

Normally, each human breast only has one nipple.
Normally, each human breast only has one nipple.

These additional nipples appear along the “milk lines,” which are areas of the body where the skin is thicker, allowing the development of breast tissue and nipples to occur. Supernumerary nipples can appear anywhere from the head down to the feet, and they may vary considerably in composition. Some, for example, are fully formed nipples with a small amount of breast tissue, capable of potentially producing milk, while others are much more rudimentary. In some cases, one may simply be a little tuft of hair.

Supernumerary nipples arise during fetal development, when something along the milk lines goes slightly awry.
Supernumerary nipples arise during fetal development, when something along the milk lines goes slightly awry.

Often, these nipples are mistaken for moles, and people are surprised to learn what they actually are. In humans, they are sometimes referred to as thripples, third nipples, accessory nipples, or polymastia. They arise during fetal development, when something along the milk lines goes slightly awry, triggering the development of an additional nipple. Around one in 18 humans has an extra nipple, making the condition not at all unusual.

Although people most commonly think of a third nipple when they hear of extra nipples, it is possible to develop multiple supernumerary nipples. The extra nipples are often visible at birth, and they change little over the course of a person's life, usually not developing significant breast tissue in puberty. Fully-formed extra nipples can potentially be at risk of breast cancer, however, and in people who are diagnosed with breast cancer, they may be removed, just to be on the safe side.

Removal of a supernumerary nipple is usually a relatively simple task, since the area is small. Some stitches may be taken or a skin graft may be applied, and the area is typically sore for a week or so while the early stages of healing begin. A small scar may be left behind by the removal, especially if the nipple was large and especially well-formed.

Some people actually enjoy their extra nipples, feeling that they confer a bit of a special status. Like other unusual markings that appear in the course of fetal development, these growths have been viewed with superstition historically. In some cultures, having a third nipple was supposed to be lucky, while in other instances, it was viewed as a sign of witchcraft or heresy.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Two of my three daughters have these. I also have them. One daughter has three, one under each normal breast, and one closer to her armpit. It actually has more breast tissue than the others lower on the abdomen. The only way you would have an increase in risk of breast cancer is if you have it one of your normal breasts (typically). It is the extra breast tissue that will usually become cancerous; it is no more common for a supernumerary nipple to become cancerous than any other nipple/breast.

I had one of mine removed, years ago, simply because (with pregnancy hormones) it became larger and irritated by my bra.

The biopsy came back as consistent with nevis (mole) tissue, no other abnormalities.


I'm 16 and i just noticed today that it looks like i have two nipples that are conjoined on one breast, meanwhile the other breast only has one. I wasn't born with it. What does this mean?


I had a third nipple too, when I was little. I used to think it was cool but just a few minutes ago. I felt really bad and started crying a little. It is very, very small. I think it is just the areola or whatever because it has nothing sticking out like a nipple and I hope it doesn't mean I can get breast cancer easier.


I think i was born with my third nipple. Does this mean I have a risk of having breast cancer?


i have two extra nipples, and it always made me feel like my body was ugly, but now i don't feel that way.


so the extra nipple won't grow although it is tender during menstruation?


I have three extra nipples, meaning I have five all together. So does that mean I'm extra special?


There is no evidence of a third nipple having anything to do with an increased potential for breast cancer. Perhaps you can supply a link to a medical site where that has been proven.

If you have a third nipple, like me, enjoy it. You're special.

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